Costs involved in using a cochlear implant in South Africa

Kerr, Gillian ; Tuomi, Seppo ; Muller, Alida (2012-12)

CITATION: Kerr, G., Tuomi, S. & Müller, A. 2012. Costs involved in using a cochlear implant in South Africa. South African Journal of Communication Disorders, 59(1):16-26, doi: 10.4102/sajcd.v59i1.18.

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Cochlear implantation is an expensive but effective lifelong intervention for individuals with a severe-to-profound hearing loss. The primary aim of this study was to survey the short- and long-term costs of cochlear implantation. Individuals (N=154) using cochlear implants obtained from the University of Stellenbosch-Tygerberg Hospital Cochlear Implant Unit in Cape Town, South Africa were surveyed using a questionnaire and patient record review. The questionnaire used a combination of closed and open-ended questions to gather both quantitative and qualitative information. Costs were categorised as short- and long-term costs. All costs were converted to constant rands (June 2010) using the Consumer Price Index to allow for comparison in real terms over time. In the first 10 years of implantation the average estimated costs incurred by adults totalled R379 626, and by children R455 225. The initial purchase of the implant system was the most substantial cost, followed by upgrading of the processor. Travel and accommodation costs peaked in the first 2 years. On average the participants spent R2 550 per year on batteries and spares. Rehabilitation for children cost an average of R7 200. Insurance costs averaged R4 040 per year, and processor repairs R3 000 each. In addition to the upfront expense of obtaining the cochlear implant system, individuals using a cochlear implant in South Africa should be prepared for the long-term costs of maintenance, accessing the unit, support services and additional costs associated with use. Knowledge of these costs is important to ensure that individuals are successful users of their cochlear implants in the long term.

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